India seek to tame rampaging Afghanistan for seventh SAFF title

India seek to tame rampaging Afghanistan for seventh SAFF title

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India will seek revenge for their loss in last year's final, when they host Afghanistan in the final of the SAFF Championship 2015 at the Trivandrum International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.

India topped their group, which had only three teams after the withdrawal of Pakistan, with two wins in their two matches. In the semi-final, India sneaked past Maldives 3-2 with Jeje Lalpekhlua scoring a brace. Stephen Constantine was without Robin Singh, who was ruled out from the tournament after picking up an injury in their opening game, but the attacking trio of Sunil Chhetri, Jeje and Holicharan Narzary produced a quality display.

However, Constantine will be worried about the two goals his team conceded against Maldives. The visitors did not create too many chances in the game, but whenever they had the chance to push forward, the Indian defence looked vulnerable – especially on the left wing. Pritam Kotal did not have his best game for the national team, and Constantine has the option of playing Pronay Halder or Aiborlang Khongjee as the right back in the final.

The Indian attack has scored nine goals in their three matches so far in this tournament, but Afghanistan's defence will be tougher than any the hosts have faced so far. The Lions of Khorasan have conceded just one goal in their last five games, including a clean-sheet against Cambodia in their last World Championship Qualifier fixture.

Afghanistan's attack has scored 19 goals in their last five matches, and their 28-year-old striker Khaibar Amani is the tournament's leading goalscorer with four strikes to his name. Petar Segrt's side decimated Sri Lanka 5-0, scoring four of those in a scintillating second half display.

Afghanistan, who are 16 places higher than India in the FIFA rankings, will be confident of getting a positive result in the final, and defend their SAFF Championship title.

However, it is India who hold the upper hand in recent times – the Men in Blue have won four of their last six games against Afghanistan, their only defeat coming in last year's final.

Both the teams have changed drastically since then though. Only five Indians, Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Arnab Mondal, Subrata Paul and Robin Singh and only one Afghanistan player Mustafa Hadid were part of that match that India lost to Afghanistan in 2013 at Kathmandu.

Additionally, India are the most successful team in the tournament, having won the title six times so far in nine appearances in the final – this is their sixth consecutive appearance in the final of this tournament, and the last time they won it, back in 2011, Sunil Chhetri had scored a hat-trick to trounce Afghanistan 4-0. The fans will hope for a repeat of that feat from the Bengaluru FC forward on Sunday.

Predicted lineups:

India: Gurpreet Sandhu, Aiborlang Khongjee, Arnab Mondal, Augustin Fernandes, Narayan Das, Bikash Jairu, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rowllin Borges, Sunil Chhetri Jeje Lalpekhlua and Holicharan Narzary.

Afghanistan: Ovays Azizi; Abassin Alikhil, Hassan Amin, Faysal Shayesteh, Kanischka Amani, Norlla Amiri, Mohammad Hashemi, Masih Saighani, Omid Popalzay, Mustafa Hadid, Kanischka Taher.


India 1-2 Afghanistan

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